meteorites

Overview

Students learn about rocks and meteorites by making connections between familiar candy bars and unfamiliar samples. Students will draw and describe the samples in everyday terms, pairing their observations with short descriptions that are in geologic "field note" style.

Materials

Management

  • Prepare sample "Edible Rocks" using the recommended recipes or candy bars listed below. Note: The first six candy bars are especially important since they closely represent meteorite characteristics. The other samples on the list are good for meeting the objectives of this activity and offer more variety. Use as many as needed, add a few extras to increase the complexity of the exercise.

  • Recommended candy:

    1. Peanut Brittle - for chondrites

    2. Rocky Road - for chondrites

    3. Chocolate - for iron without fusion crust

    4. 3 Musketeers - for achondrite with fusion crust

    5. Rice Cereal Treats - for meteorite regolith breccia

    6. Chocolate brownie - for carbonaceous chondrites)

    7. SnickersTM

    8. Milky WayTM

    9. "Bar None"TM

    10. TwixTM

    11. ButterfingerTM

    12. SkorTM

    13. RoloTM

    14. Kit KatTM

    15. SymphonyTM

    16. M&M'sTM

    17. Nestle CrunchTM

    18. WhatchamacallitTM

    19. MoundsTM

    20. P.B. MaxTM

    21. Mr. GoodbarTM

    22. Hershey with AlmondsTM

  • Cut the samples so that a flat interior surface is exposed. Place each sample in a small plastic bag. Each team of students will have one bag containing one sample. Note: Due to the risks posed by food-borne illness and allergies, students should not eat the samples.

  • Make copies of the student worksheets (one for each team ). 

  • Cut enlarged "field note" sample descriptions into numbered segments. Descriptions are written the way a scientist might take notes in a field record book. 

  • Arrange one set of prepared field note descriptions on a table so that students may easily read and reach each of them. (Number sequence is not important.)

  • Have a variety of rock samples or images available. Students may bring their own samples, too.

  • Students should work in groups of two or three. Emphasize that working together is important.

Background

Vocabulary:

  • Texture
  • Density
  • Matrix
  • Breccia
  • Phases
  • Fusion crust
  • Chondrules
  • Inclusions
  • Vesicles
  • Bleb
  • Friable
  • Platy
  • Porous
  • Unfractured
  • Unconsolidated
  • Regolith

Procedures

  1. Distribute a sample and the worksheet to each team. Allow student teams to choose a sample, if possible.

  2. Explain that teams are responsible for describing and sketching their sample. Encourage students to describe their observations using familiar vocabulary; however, use no food terms. For example: "The outer layer is a thin coat of light brown material containing cream or tan colored round chunks" instead of “chocolate candy bar coating that contains peanuts”. Student descriptions need not be exactly like the provided descriptions. In fact their descriptions may be far more detailed than the short descriptions provided, which are in geologic field note form.

  3. When students have finished sketching and describing their samples, have them pair their sketch, description and sample with the field notes. Emphasize that their observations will not be exactly like the field notes. They will likely try several matches before they have the accurate pairing. Throughout this step, the teacher will verify correct pairs.

  4. When they have found the field note that describes their sample, students should place their sketch, description and sample next to the correct field note description. If students have difficulty finding the description of their candy bar, then the teacher should encourage them to interact with other groups for help.

  5. When all students have successfully matched their samples, each team may describe its sample to the class. The class should have access to the sample and the prepared written description during the discussion. Sketches may also be displayed.

Discussion

  • Conduct a discussion that touches on the assessment metrics listed below, which emphasize the basic skills needed to be a good scientist. During the discussion, the teacher may expand and help define the meteorite and geologic vocabulary in context and encourage students to apply it to their own samples. Pay particular attention to vocabulary for the first six samples that use some words especially pertinent to meteorites.

Assessment

  • Did the students make detailed observations of a sample?

  • Was the task accomplished using teamwork?

  • Although the student's descriptions differed from those provided and each team had a different style, were the skills and processes used to observe and record the data the same for each group?

  • Did the students communicate their observations and then share their findings verbally and in writing?

Extensions